Spruce Creek has fallen short in the Sweet 16 three years in a row.
Twenty-one wins, a district championship and a nine-game win streak.
The Hawks’ girls volleyball team’s confidence was soaring heading into their match against Oviedo in Class 9A’s Sweet 16 on Nov. 1, 2017.
Spruce Creek had never made it out of the regional semifinal match. And the Lions kept it that way, taking down the Hawks in three-straight sets.
It was the Hawks’ third year in a row falling short in the Sweet 16.
“It was heartbreaking,” senior outside hitter Hallie Huth said. “It was such a disappointment.”
The Hawks began the 2018 season with renewed confidence, and head coach Cara Swayze’s squad is intent on finally making it past the regional semifinal. In the Hawks’ opening three games, they played Bishop Kenny, Lake Highland Prep and Middleburg — all state playoff teams in 2017, with Middleburg going as far as the Elite Eight. The Hawks swept Bishop Kenny and Middleburg on Aug. 21 and Aug. 28, respectively, but lost to Lake Highland Prep 3-1 on Aug. 23.
“We don’t care about anything else. We just want to get past the Sweet 16,” Swayze said. “We’re right where we need to be … and in order to do that, we’ve just got to keep working.”
Swayze said she feels this year’s team is “more together” than last year’s team, which went 21-7. The Hawks are led by team captains Huth and senior opposite hitter Rachel Fincher. In addition, Swayze said senior middle blocker Anna Boone and junior setter Kate Roth have stepped up so far this season. The starting lineup is composed of four seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. The bench also features a wealth of talent to back up experienced starters.
And although the Hawks are dangerous on the offensive end, Swayze said she needs to see more consistency if the team is to achieve its goal of going deeper into the playoffs.
“We have to pass the ball better,” she said. “We need to play great defense — and that’s against teams that are just as good as we are. We have to be able to last those rallies.”